Planning nonprofit fundraising events can be a wild ride (We see you Mr. Toad!) because there are a million different things to think about when it comes to creating a great attendee experience. In the midst of all the planning, though, make sure you don't forget to think about something that far too often gets overlooked—accessibility and inclusivity.
When you think of accessibility and inclusivity, you might immediately think of wheelchair ramps and emergency exits, etc. And yeah, those things are extremely important, but there's a whole world of things to consider to ensure your event is truly accessible and inclusive for ev-ery-one.
Check out these seven ways your nonprofit can incorporate accessibility and inclusivity into your next fundraising event.
Before you start planning, lay out the puzzle pieces of your ideal nonprofit fundraising event. What type of people do you want to attend? What time of year is your event? Is it inside or outside? Will you be serving food, and what food are you imagining?
As you put the pieces together, think about things that could have a cultural impact on your attendees. These are the people who are providing financial assistance to your org, so showing them that you're keeping their cultural values in mind will keep them feeling very warm toward your cause.
Here are some examples: If you're planning a food-based event, consider different religious celebrations. Muslims fast during Ramadan and many Catholics don't eat meat during Lent. If you're planning entertainment, like a traditional dance troupe, do your research to make sure that you're hiring entertainers who celebrate and honor that culture rather than just putting on costumes. And if you're planning an athletic event, like a fun run, consider people who don't look like your typical heteronormative donor—those who use different athletic gear, who may need more time or assistance to finish the race, or who may need a special cheering section.
Of course, your event invite should be visually awesome and provide all of the appropriate details and stories that entice people to buy tickets (With Funraise Events & Ticketing, they also have the option to donate), but are you making sure that your teaser video has closed captioning and/or subtitles? Are you providing a clear way for people to communicate that they need additional assistance in buying a ticket, or special accommodations at the venue, like food preference? If you're not taking these things into consideration, it's time to revamp your event planning strategy.
Selecting vendors for your event is one of the most important decisions you can make. Instead of going with the usual suspects, why not check out local vendors to decorate, design, or provide security at your event? Here's one better: find local vendors that are minority- or women-owned businesses.
When selecting caterers, it's also important to take into consideration people who have food sensitivities and allergies. If you want to be environmentally conscious, choose an event planner that uses sustainable eco-friendly materials and hires locally. If you're really serious about inclusive hiring year-round, look into AskEarn.org to learn about best practices and resources.
Traffic and congestion are the pits. Especially when you're trying to get to an event on time. Consider hosting your event near public transportation hubs. This can be extremely helpful for those who may not have access to a car, and also gives an environmentally safe option for those who are ozone layer warriors. Promoting carpooling is also an option. Searching for parking or paying for parking is often a huge deterrent when it comes to events, so make it easier for your attendees by partnering with ridesharing companies to provide discount codes. Remember, the easier you make it for people to attend your events, the more people will come, increasing donation opportunities for your cause. Score!
Location. Location. Location. Finding an event venue is often one of the most challenging event planning activities. Finding an affordable space that holds all of your guests is probably at the top of your list, but another very important thing to consider when selecting a venue is making sure it's accessible for people with physical impairments. This means ensuring doorways are wide enough and ramps are properly placed, but it also means ensuring that the audio/visual equipment is up-to-date, that the lighting is sensitive to those who may have visual impairments, and that service animals are permitted.
From the moment someone walks into your event, they should have no trouble reading or deciphering your event materials. This includes making sure the copy is large enough to read on the signage at check-in, any marketing materials handouts about your org, donation pledge forms, silent auction signs, sponsorship materials. The whole shebang!
The moment every nonprofit prepares for is the event program. This is when you'll be talking about all the great world-changing stuff your org is doing, telling your impact stories, and asking donors for the big bucks. But, can everyone hear and/or see you? Is there a designated area in case someone needs wheelchair access? Are there closed captions on the screen? Did you hire a translator for those who may have requested it? Taking the time to make sure everyone in attendance can hear your message and is comfortable should be of the utmost importance.
We understand that fundraising events take a lot of work, but making sure that all your constituents, donors, supporters, and guests are welcomed and happy is worth it! You got this. Make your next event a time to remember.